HBO Films

The Girl

Interview with Julian Jarrold

HBO

When you first picked up the script for this film, what about Hitchcock interested you from the outset?

Jullian Jarrold

I’ve always particularly loved his later Hollywood films. When I read this, it did seem to shed some light on the relationship with Tippi – and it seemed to be part of his films. Unlike most biopics, which just tell you the life story, this is actually providing fascinating insights into this relationship that started out so warmly and then spiraled out of control.

HBO

How much were you aware of his obsessive relationship with Tippi before starting work on the film?

Jullian Jarrold

Just on the fringes, I’d heard that there had been trouble between him and Tippi on set, but I didn’t really know what that meant. It was only recently that Tippi started telling people about this. The first thing I did was check it out because it seemed quite extraordinary, and also it just seemed to define such an interesting moment in his career – ‘Marnie’ was his last great film.

HBO

Did it affect your feelings about him as one of history’s great directors?

Jullian Jarrold

Obviously, one has a mixture of feelings about it. Because, it’s a disappointment that he could behave like that, and puzzling, but at the same time, it felt like an interesting revelation because there seemed to be some of that in his later films, in the ways he explored these relationships. One thing I was concerned about is that we didn’t portray Hitchcock just as a monster, because that obviously wasn’t true, and wouldn’t be interesting anyway. I hope in the film that we get a sense of his vulnerability, where he’s coming from and why he’s tortured by this. I think it explores an obsession that wasn’t necessarily sexual. It was connected in some way with his need for beauty and the way he saw women as almost goddesses. He wanted to be part of that, and he was so self-conscious of his appearance, and he was tortured by that. There’s always going to be an element of mystery to Hitchcock; it’s very hard to explain it rationally. But I think that’s where he was coming from.

HBO

How did you draw on Hitchcock’s style to give the film its look?

Jullian Jarrold

We tried to film it in a Hitchcockian way. We used the same lighting style and diffused filters. When we shot Hitchcock shooting on set, we shot those scenes on 35mm, and we graded it to give it a more contrast-y, saturated, Technicolor look than is currently fashionable. I didn’t want to overdo that too strongly; I just wanted to create that air of Hitchcock and the glamour of working in studios at that time. Then, there are obviously moments in the film where one sees little homages to Hitchcock’s other films, from ‘Psycho’ to ‘Vertigo.’ They’re not there, hopefully, just as eye-candy, but to really express some of the conflicts the characters are going through. We also tried to understand his special-effects system that he used – which was pretty innovative at the time – with this yellow screen. We weren’t copying so much as trying to enter that world and bring the audience into it.

HBO

How difficult was it to shoot the scenes that represent Hitchcock’s production of ‘The Birds’?

Jullian Jarrold

We didn’t have lots of days like Hitchcock had. And bird regulations these days are very strict, so we had to make sure those birds had their rest! And then we had exactly the same problems with the bird sequence as I’m sure Hitchcock did: How do you make it appear like the birds are attacking the actress? It takes a lot of time and patience, and it’s very frustrating and tricky. But fortunately we got enough of it, and Sienna was absolutely fantastic about going for take after take until we could get it.

"He was somebody who knew what every shot was doing, and he used each shot to create a certain effect. Nothing was random or thrown in."
HBO

What was the experience like, shooting an old-time set within your modern set?

Jullian Jarrold

It was very weird – also having Toby as Hitchcock as the director. Because he was Hitchcock when he was on set; he wasn’t Toby. He was quite a presence. So you had two directors and two crews, with this fake crew learning how to work this old-fashioned camera, which was complicated. And then, if Hitchcock’s crew shouted “Cut” the trick was to avoid cutting on our camera. There was a lot of potential for confusion and some funny outtakes, where Hitchcock shouts, “Cut!” and my camera assistant walks into the shot and then rushes out again because she realizes we’re still filming.

HBO

What was the most interesting detail you learned about this director’s life while making the film?

Jullian Jarrold

It was certainly interesting the way he had to control everything. He hated location shooting, and he’d do anything to avoid it. So, he’d shoot a wide shot on location, and then the rest of the scene would be taken to a studio three weeks later and the lighting and everything matched. It seems unbelievably difficult and a torturous process – something we’d never do now. But he was somebody who knew what every shot was doing, and he used each shot to create a certain effect. Nothing was random or thrown in. He famously was interested in pure cinema, using the image and the sound rather than people just sitting around talking. It was like learning, studying these films. Great lessons, really.